As the nation’s capital, Stockholm has always been the place where Sweden’s elite resided and where most important events took place. It goes without saying that the Swedish royalty has left a considerable mark on the city with many splendid royal places standing all over Stockholm that are still available to us to admire today.
From the Royal Palace of Stockholm and the Stockholm Cathedral that laid the foundation of the royal presence in Stockholm to the beloved 18th-century residence of Gustav III at Haga Park. In this guide, you will find all of the most impressive places in Stockholm whose stories are closely related to the Swedish kings and princes.
We begin the tour at the former residence of Princess Sofia Albertina, the sister to Gustav III and Karl XIII, the Arvfurstens Palace (Arvfurstens palats). The late-18th-century residence stands right in the geographical centre of Stockholm at Gustav Adolf’s Square (Gustav Adolfs torg). Today housing the Swedish Department of Foreign Affairs, the near original façade used to have an almost identical counterpart in the form of Gustav III’s Opera House on the opposite side of the square.
After the princess’ death in the 1820s, the palace was used by several other successors to the Swedish throne including Crown Prince Oscar who later became King Oscar II and who used to live in Arvfurstens Palace together with his wife Sophia and their children, princes Gustav, Oscar, Carl, and Eugen, who were all born in the residence.
From Arvfurstens Palace it is only a stone’s throw, or rather a short walk over the unique Norrbro Bridge, to the monumental Royal Palace of Stockholm (Kungliga slottet). While the present-day palace was born in the first half of the 18th century, a palace or a castle of some form used to stand in the location ever since the time Birger Jarl, the city’s founder, walked the streets of Stockholm.
With more than 600 rooms and a number of different museums where you can admire everything from historical royal carriages through coronation jewels and the remains of the famous Tre Kronor Palace to the royal apartments, no visitor interested in the history of the Royals should miss this place.
Not all royal matters take place at the Royal Palace though. Historically, but also in the modern day, many important events such as coronations, burials, and weddings have been hosted at churches located in the heart of Stockholm. Stockholm Cathedral (Storkyrkan/Stockholms domkyrka) standing only metres from the walls of the Royal Palace at the highest point on the Stadsholmen Island is the oldest church in town.
Its story is as closely related to the Swedish monarchs as it gets. Since the eldest parts of the church date from the 14th century, it has not only witnessed the city around it change from a medieval town to the modern-day metropolis, it has also changed quite a lot itself. Although the current exterior comes from the 18th century, you can find artefacts that are more than half a millennium old inside the church.
Every journey comes to an end, no matter if you are a king, a queen, or an ordinary Joe or Jane. For almost 300 hundred years in a row, the Riddarholm Church (Riddarholmskyrkan) used to be the official burial place of the Swedish monarchs. While Gustav II Adolf was not the first king buried there after he was killed in a battle in 1632, it was his burial that started this tradition which was only interrupted by his successor Queen Christina and lasted all the way until the death of Gustav V in the mid-20th century.
In addition to that, the Riddarholm Church built in the late 1200s is one of the oldest buildings in town and the last remaining medieval monastic church in Stockholm. Its characteristic tower spire, as well as the massive red-brick façade, can be admired year-round whereas you are only able to visit the interior during summer months.
Every royal palace and every king need their impressive garden. However, the space on the island of Stadsholmen is very scarce which means flower beds and extensive lawns did not make it there. To be fair, though, the garden located just across the Stallbron Bridge originally served as a kitchen garden for the Royal Palace and its residents, so its function was crucial.
It was only in the 17th century that Kungsträdgården (‘The Royal Garden’), which was still inaccessible to the public at the time, was turned into a French-style pleasure garden. Today, it is a vibrant place in the centre of Stockholm where many cultural events take place during summer and an ice-skating rink surrounds the statue of Karl XIII in the middle of the park in winter.
Palaces and gardens are probably what you expect to see when speaking of royal places. However, would you expect to find that there is an entire royal island in Stockholm? And it is not a small one either. Today, Royal Djurgården (Kungliga Djurgården) is freely accessible to everyone and many take advantage of it every day. This was not always the case though as the island is where the royalty would go and enjoy a day of hunting a few centuries ago.
Djurgården is a real gem with extensive promenades, parks, plentiful museums, historic sites and much more that I cannot compare to anything I have seen. Just make sure to reserve enough time for your visit as the size of the island might surprise you.
Among the most interesting attractions on Djurgården, I must mention Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde (Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde) which is the furthest place from the city centre where you can get by tram. Apart from being a former residence of Prince Eugen, son of King Oscar II, Waldemarsudde is dubbed as ‘Sweden’s most beautiful art museum.’
In its premises, you will find contemporary paintings made by the prince himself, as well as other local authors. Moreover, you get to explore the residence room after room and enjoy the beautiful surroundings dominated by pleasant gardens with plentiful sculptures and stunning sea views.
One of Prince Eugen’s ancestors, King Karl XIV Johan (Charles XIV John), became similarly impressed with Djurgården and built one of his residences on the island, too. The first Swedish monarch of the current reigning Bernadotte dynasty, which celebrates the 200th anniversary on the Swedish throne in 2018, built the elegant Rosendal Palace (Rosendals slott) on the northern side of Djurgården a few years before he assumed the throne.
The palace is a foremost example of the Empire style, also known in Sweden as Karl Johan’s style. Most of the original furnishing has been preserved from the 1800s and can be seen in Rosendal Palace each summer.
To visit a royal residence of the absolute highest class, we need to leave the city centre. Still easily reachable even by public transport, you can get to appreciate the beauty of the UNESCO-listed Drottningholm Palace (Drottningholms slott). The modern-day palace and its impressive baroque gardens were built in the 17th century by Sweden’s foremost architects.
Apart from these, there is the Chinese Pavilion (Kina slott), a more modern English-style park, the Palace Theatre (Drottningholms slottsteater), and a nice café with views of the palace. That is all to say that Drottninghollm is more than just the official residence of the Swedish Royal Couple, it is also a wonderful place where you can spend all day and still not have enough. It might be interesting to know that the place is also accessible by boat from Central Stockholm.
In the late 18th century, the centre of the growing capital started to seem a little too dense to some people’s taste. King Gustav III was one of them and, together with his passion for art, English-style parks and beautiful structures, this issue resulted in his decision to build an entirely new residence at Haga Park (Hagaparken).
Although his vision was never fully carried out, he made a great impact on the character of the place which lasts to this day. Haga Park is not only a place where you can spend some quality time with your dear ones or take a nice long walk, it is also the home to many extraordinary historic sites which the king used to consider his home. Even today, the Crown Princess of Sweden Victoria with her family live in the Haga Palace (Haga slott) located directly in the park.
Other attractions in the park include the Echo Temple (Ekotemplet), the Chinese Pagoda, or the Copper Tent (Koppartälten). In my opinion, all of these amazing structures are overshadowed by the beauty of Gustav III’s Pavilion (Gustav III:s paviljong) which is one of Europe’s most impressive pavilions from the 18th century. You do not have to agree with me, though, so make sure to have a look at all these places.
The pavilion was used by the king as his summer residence during the final years of his life before his assassination at a masked ball in his own Opera House in 1792. In fact, Gustav III went to the said ball directly from the pavilion. Just like the exterior, the interior of the former royal residence is very well preserved and you have a chance to enjoy it every summer on a guided tour of the place.